Labor Roundup | June 2019

Four-fifths of voters want U.S.-made rebuilding of infrastructure, but not Donald Trump’s Mexican Wall, according to a poll from the Alliance for American Manufacturing. Only 34 percent of voters (7 percent of Democrats, 22 percent of independents and 69 percent of Republicans) favor the Wall.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., has proposed banning state “Right-To-Work” laws, going where even organized labor has not openly marched for decades. Sanders, among leaders in opinion polls about Democratic presidential hopefuls, made his proposal before a Machinists women’s conference in Las Vegas.

“Under the most significant labor legislation introduced in very, very long time, we will end once and for all the disastrous Right-To-Work laws in 28 states,” Sanders said.

The new Democratic-run U.S. House “has stood on the side of workers,” says AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, who listed issues ranging from defending federal workers to opposing job-losing “free trade” pacts to pro-worker labor law reform. Democrats’ proposals including electoral reform and Medicare For All (which Trumka predicted would come incrementally, starting with lowering the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 50) get labor’s support, he says.

Witnesses delve into details at Congress’ first-ever Medicare For All hearing. A panel of witnesses over five hours before the House Rules Committee delved into the details of the U.S. medical “system” and its costs, availability, outcomes, prejudices and insurers’ frequent denial of care at Congress’ first hearing on Medicare For All. Unknown to those present, Medicare For All became even more important that day, when President Donald Trump’s Justice Department asked the conservative federal appeals court in New Orleans to eliminate the Affordable Care Act as unconstitutional. Millions, including the kids, people with pre-existing conditions and pregnant women, would lose coverage.

Chicago’s WBBM-AM won’t help minimum-wage workers, Writers Guild says. Labor tensions are escalating at WBBM Newsradio 780-AM and 105.9 FM, where workers are putting public pressure on management to provide raises, especially for those who earn the minimum wage. The employees, members of the Writers Guild of America, East, say management refuses to compromise on demands for raises for assistant producers, who make the $12-per-hour city-mandated minimum.

“We all came here with prior experience,” said Shereen Mohammad, a news assistant producer who’s on the union’s bargaining committee. “The job requires a college degree and people have student debt. Yet it feels like they’re treating us like interns.”

The Chicago Federation of Labor, which represents more than 300 local unions, has voiced its support, as has the NFL Players Association (important since WBBM carries Bears sportscasts). WBBM, owned by Entercom Communications, reported first-quarter net income of $3.13 million on revenues of $309 million.

Unions join alliance demanding release of full Mueller report. A coalition including the Teachers (AFT) and the Service Employees is demanding release of what could include GOP President Donald Trump’s “smoking gun” on Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, plus Trump’s possible abuse of power: the un-redacted 448-page report by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, plus supporting evidence.

“Today we gather in 200+ towns and cities to demand the Trump DOJ #ReleaseTheReport. Americans deserve to see the full findings of the Mueller investigation, and people are taking to the streets,” SEIU tweeted. (SEIU’s rally estimate was low; 330 communities participated.)

While tens of thousands of protesters demand it, House Judiciary Committee chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., told the April crowd the House of Representatives does, too.

“We are in a battle over the rules that govern our democracy and that sustain our democracy,” Nadler said to a crowd of almost 1,000 people in Lafayette Square.

The group called – including AFT, the Service Employees, the Working Families Party, Common Cause,,, Democracy21, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee and People for the American Way – called the demonstrations.

“We will fight ’til Hell freezes over and then we’ll fight on the ice,” said one speaker, a Marine who served in Democratic President Barack Obama’s Defense Department.

USDA Economic Research Service (ERS) employees are seeking union representation to deal with Trump-administration changes such as clearing research through Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue’s office.

“The agency is trying to restrict how the ERS employees are publishing papers,” said Peter Winch, who works for the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE).

ERS (which studies agricultural economics, rural development, demographics, and related topics) is concerned that politicizing their work will damage researchers’ scientific credibility.

The AFGE also is responding to organizing efforts at USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

News Guild launches pay-equity campaign at newspapers. The News Guild, a sector of the Communications Workers, used Equal Pay Day on April 2 to launch an ambitious pay-equity drive at U.S. newspapers. And data its locals have gathered from their own employers – usually over the bosses’ opposition – show newspapers need it. Equal Pay Day showed that the median weekly wage for a working woman is between 77 cents and 80 cents for every dollar a man gets in the same or similar job. (A median is mid-point, where half the group is above and half below.)

“Study after study has shown that at news organizations across the country, women and people of color are paid significantly less than their colleagues,” said News Guild President Bernie Lunzer. “News Guild members around the country are posting on social media, putting up table tents, and talking with their colleagues about how the union can address pay discrimination directly.”

News briefs courtesy of The Labor Paper

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